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Circuit Breaker

Asus’ ZenFone 3 Zoom cuts back on the camera and beefs up the battery

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The phone has less optical zoom than its predecessor, but a new, impressive 5,000 mAh battery

Asus has unveiled the ZenFone 3 Zoom — a successor to the ZenFone Zoom that retains the original’s stand-out feature (you guessed it: a camera with an optical zoom) while refining a few other specs. The most interesting of these is a new 5,000 mAh battery squeezed into a case that’s actually three millimeters slimmer than the original’s. Asus claims the battery life is so good that the 3 Zoom can double up as a power bank to charge users’ other gadgets, but... we wouldn’t recommend it.

More notable is the fact that Asus has actually toned down the camera specs on the 3 Zoom. While the camera on the original had a 3X optical zoom, this one makes do with 2.3X magnification on one of the two lenses in its new dual-camera set-up. (The other lens is a 12-megapixel wide-angle lens with an f/1.7-aperture.) Asus says the pair of lenses can work in concert to provide that depth-of-field bokeh effect that blurs the background while keeping the subject of your photos sharply in focus.

Photo: ZenFone

From specs alone, though, we’re not too excited about the ZenFone 3 Zoom. In our 2016 review of the original $399 Zoom we found that the camera system wasn’t as good as those of pricier devices, and was also outmatched by handsets that cost the same. At the time, we noted that 3X optical zoom didn’t really “open any new doors” when it came to mobile photography, and the step down to a 2.3X zoom won’t improve on that. The new Zoom though does at least add support 4K video — a feature notably absent from the original.

Other specs are similar to the ZenFone 3 announced in May last year, including a 5.5-inch 1080p display and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 625 processor powering things. Pricing and configurations (including as-yet-unknown memory and internal storage specs) will be announced “at a later date,” says Asus, and the phone itself will be available to buy in February this year.